Maybe the Mets didn’t get a free agent bargain with J.D. Martinez after all

The longer he misses, the less of a bargain this free agent deal feels like.
Division Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Three
Division Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Three / Norm Hall/GettyImages

It’s not worth panicking over, but it is worth reassessing for sure. J.D. Martinez is already dealing with a back issue. It’s delaying his New York Mets debut even further. 

Death, taxes, and a big Mets free agent bat getting hurt before he even played a game. Guarantees in life. We thought for sure we’d see Martinez at the plate for the Mets before tax day. Now we’ll just be thankful if he’s on the roster before the death of the 2024 season.

The Mets have, fortunately, pulled themselves out of the gutter since the disappointing homestand to open the year. Now guaranteed to at least play .500 baseball on the road between their series against the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves, the missing piece in the middle of their lineup continues to work his way back into action.

The Mets looked like they got a bargain with J.D. Martinez, but maybe not so much

At $12.5 million with a huge portion of it deferred a decade into the future, the Martinez deal still looks irresistible. Right now the complaint is that it’s taking a little too long and each passing day makes it less of a steal in free agency and more like a fair value for all of the time he could miss. Martinez has dealt with back issues in the past. Mets fans knew all about this in 2022 when the Mets balked at acquiring him at the trade deadline from the Boston Red Sox in large part due to those concerns.

The Mets bought Martinez off of a huge campaign with the Los Angeles Dodgers featuring 33 home runs and 103 RBI in only 479 plate appearances. Martinez appeared in only 113 games for the Dodgers and yet he had the kind of offensive output one might expect from a 162-game participant. 

Expecting Martinez to stay healthy for an entire season would be foolish. When he does arrive, we should expect the Mets to occasionally mix in the off-day for their regular position players even with him around. Martinez would remain a pinch hitting threat for them in those games where he isn’t on the first lineup card. Although it would burn through two players if the game continues after his at-bat and he didn’t just pinch hit for the DH, it’s well worth having him around.

At this stage with Martinez, we’re not quite at panic but more at a point of teeth gritting. Memories of Yoenis Cespedes completely disappearing for years have returned in flashes. If he actually did exist as a member of the Mets roster, the Jed Lowrie comparisons are sure to continually pop up as well.

Because Martinez did play in some minor league games, we can’t pull out our conspiracy theorist hats and say the Mets knew he was hurt when they signed him or anything like that. This is merely an unfortunate turn in the start of what we hope is a productive season in Queens.

In the interim, the Mets will continue to use Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty as protection behind Pete Alonso. Or maybe they’re protecting each other at this point. Those kids are raking where the rest of the roster is kicking the leaves under the deck.